There’s been a lot of talk here on this site and around the internet on what is wrong with baseball. From fans not showing up to teams not caring the game I grew up with has become a pitiful shame. Heck, they didn’t elect one new member to the Hall of Fame this year. Did you see the ballot? Dale Murphy continues to be ignored, but even Craig Biggio gets overlooked? Bernie Williams received less than 20% of the vote? How has the game become such a laughing stock? Why don’t fans care anymore? I’ll answer it for you here.
To begin with, 10 year contracts are destroying the game. Alex Rodriguez is 38, and is under contract to the Yankees for four more seasons at an average of $27,000,000 a year. So for the 44 games he actually played in 2013, he got paid $613,000 each game. They would have to pay me $480,000 a year if any team signed me, and he makes more than that for each game he played this year.
Albert Pujols signed with the Angels through 2021, at $24 million per season. At that point he’ll be 41 years old. In return, the Angels got 99 games out of him this season, a .258 batting average, and for the first time in his professional career he hit less than 30 homeruns. Heck, he hit less than 20 homeruns!
Joey Votto is signed until he’s 42. Heck, the list goes on and on. And now we learn that Robinson Cano wants $30 million a year for the next 10 seasons when he’ll be 40. How in the world did the game get to the point where players think they are worth $30 million a year in years that most players have retired?
I could go on and on about steroids, but I think the point has been absorbed by the baseball community. Fans do not want their players jacked up on performance enhancing drugs. Period. Case closed.
But the #1 driving force in baseball that has destroyed the game is the simply mathematics of being a fan. We have to pay $40 for a bleacher seat. We have to pay $8 for a beer. We have to pay $200 for a jersey. Heck, a simple hat costs us $25. It’s completely out of hand and it is caused by pure greed. Owners, players and venues are all equally to blame.
The average cost of a ticket in Boston is $53 every game. Throw in two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four regular-size hot dogs, parking for one car, two game programs and two least expensive, adult-size adjustable caps and the average party of 4 will pay $337 PER GAME. That’s over $27,000 a season for those four to watch their team play baseball. And let’s be honest, which party of four is drinking two small beers per game? The average for all teams is $27 a ticket, and $210 for that party of four.
The above average has one small flaw, and that is parking. If you are lucky enough to get a stadium parking spot, then you’ll only pay the stadium fee. However most stadiums do not have enough parking, so fans get gouged by local businesses charging $30-$40 a game to cram your car in next to some drunk who can’t get out without banging up your door.
So what’s happening? Fans aren’t showing up. Tampa Bay averaged around 19,000 fans per game in 2012. In 2013? Less than 18,000 per game. AND THEY MADE THE PLAYOFFS!
The game is simply too expensive for the average fan. In a decade where average income is dropping, unemployment continues to skyrocket, and the home city of the Detroit Tigers went bankrupt, the team raised their ticket prices in 2013, and they raised the salaries of their players from $140,000,000 in 2012 to $148,000,000 in 2013. How can they justify ever increasing profit for owners and players in a city that is bankrupt with 16% unemployment?
If that were the worst of it, I’d stop typing. But we go the opposite extreme with the Miami Marlins. They simply don’t care. The owner, Jeff Loria, simply doesn’t want to win. In 2012 they won 21 games in May. By August they had only 1 player left on the team from the opening day roster, and they had fired their manager. They ended up losing 93 games. So in 2013, they had to make moves to right the ship, correct? WRONG. They traded away most of their players for a bunch of nobodies, and improved so much they lost 100 games in 2013. Make no mistake; Jeff Loria is a fantastic art collector. But he doesn’t know jack about baseball. He drove the Montreal Expos into the ground, and was rewarded with the opportunity to do the same with the Marlins.
And lastly, the problem I truly hated the most with baseball is scheduled to retire after the 2014 season. Bud Selig has done many good things with baseball, but he ignored steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. He moved his own team from the American League to the National League so they wouldn’t have to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox for the league title anymore. And he has continually ignored the simple fact that Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame. If baseball selects another team owner to be the commissioner when he retires, I will give up on the game for good. You cannot possibly tell me having one of 32 owners deciding what’s best for all of the game is a good idea. He will always think of himself first.
And while we’re recovering from Mr Selig, how about we all just get off our high horse about Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa? (Screw Rafael Palmerio, he dug his own grave)They were the reason baseball got popular again. The league (READ: Bud Selig) allowed them to use steroids. Now they suddenly are on the black list. That’s a crying shame. Put them all three in the Hall right now, no questions asked. Regardless of steroids, they saved the dang game.
To begin with, we have to deal with salaries. Owners don’t pay salaries. Fans do. And we’re tired of paying so much for so little talent. If I were commissioner for a year I’d start with zeroing out every player’s contract. Start from scratch, and require every contract to have a performance clause. I’d set a minimum salary and every other dime would have to be earned on the field. There would be no guaranteed money, beyond the minimum. I’d make it fair, don’t get me wrong. Basically, I’d pay $1,000,000 minimum salary for every player. Homeruns and RBIs get you more, errors and strikeouts get you less. For pitchers, I’d eliminate “wins” from every pitchers statistics. I’d award bonuses for strikeouts, pickoffs, and low ERA. I’d deduct for walks, homeruns, and not being able to pitch at least the 7th inning. Good closers are fine. The inability of a starting pitcher to get beyond the 6th inning is embarrassing.
Next I’d take care of ticket prices. If a family of four can’t attend a baseball game, sitting in the bleachers, for under $100 a game, then we will lose tomorrow’s fan base. I don’t mind a premium for sitting behind home plate. I do mind $100 for four tickets to sit so far you can’t determine the pitcher’s uniform number. Lowering prices all around would ensure fans can still attend and pay their mortgage payment. No beer should cost more than $5. No hotdog is worth more than $1.50. And a dang glass of soda costs less than .25 cents for a 20 ounce cup. The cup is the most expensive component. How they can then sell them for $4 is just highway robbery.
Another way to start fixing the game is parking. MLB should require every new stadium to provide ample parking for 100% of the fans in attendance. And they should then charge no more than $5 to park there. It’s really that simple.
As for the players, drug testing should be mandatory, public, and non-negotiable. Everyone knew Alex Rodriguez was cheating. I’ve been saying it for over a decade. It was obvious, and it was ignored. There should be no more secret lists. No more protected results. Every game, every season, every player should pee in a cup before the game. Mandatory, no questions asked. Drug tests for nearly every known steroid shows up instantly. Dip the stick in the pee and if it turns whatever color, there are steroids present. But baseball makes you think it takes months of testing and verifying. That’s a lie. Play clean or don’t play. It is a shame that more players in baseball get in trouble for testing positive for marijuana than do for steroids.
The commissioner problem will take care of itself, providing they do not hire another owner. You simply cannot oversee yourself. It is impossible. And the next commissioner would do a world of good for the game to not only put Pete Rose in the hall of fame (no vote necessary), but to then send him on a league wide tour to receive the accolades he is long overdue.
So we’ve fixed salaries, parking and beer. Now let’s look at merchandise. I’ve sold t-shirts before. I know the production cost of a jersey and hat. And I’m telling you a team jersey can be profitably manufactured and sold for $20. If a player’s name is on it, tack on another $5 and give that directly to that player. Hats should be no more than $15. Team owners should stop gouging the fans at every level of support. It’s criminal what they do.
Lastly, I’d ban Jeff Loria from ever being involved in the game of baseball again. I’d ban him from playing catch with his grandchildren. I’d block the reception of games on his television. He is a prime example of everything that is wrong with the game today.
Is any of this going to happen? Of course not. Mainly because nobody involved in the game cares about the fans anymore. The fans are simply there to bring the money. Todd Helton retired this year, and he just might be the last truly devoted player in the game. He could have easily gone for the monster paycheck at any time in the last 17 seasons, but he chose to stay with the Rockies. That’s nearly unheard of. And with the crappy owner and GM the Rockies have, I’m shocked they let him stay. They normally ship talent off within days of recognizing it.
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